NIRUPA SHAH, A South Africa native who recently moved to the Seattle area and became a U.S. citizen, was looking for ways to contribute to, and connect more deeply with, her new home. But that can be hard to do as an adult with grown kids and an established professional life.

When she found out about Impact 100 Seattle through a neighbor, “It was as though my message went out into the universe and I was getting exactly what I wanted,” Shah says.

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The idea behind Impact 100 — originally founded in Cincinnati and now with at least 60 chapters — is simple: a group of at least 100 women, each giving $1,000 to pool and donate to worthy organizations.

After Anna Graves heard about it from a friend on the East Coast, she and co-founder Anne Janda started combing networks to invite women from different backgrounds and professions.

Their goal: give to small, community-based nonprofits working to get to the root of problems and ultimately fix their underlying causes. More significant: They went with a “trust-based” model, granting with no strings attached.

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Many philanthropic organizations dictate how recipients use funds — which can leave out unsexy but vital things like hiring staff. But the organizations often “just need an infusion of cash,” says Shah, who now helps foster the continuing relationship with grant recipients as co-chair of the group’s nonprofit relations committee. “They don’t need to be told what to do.”

Impact 100 Seattle focuses on groups run by women and people of color who come from the communities they serve — such as the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC), this year’s biggest funding recipient (the group also gave to two semifinalists). Founded 20 years ago to ensure the local community was represented in the Duwamish Superfund site mitigation, it has grown to address larger land-based issues such as displacement due to gentrification.

“We as an organization couldn’t address the cleanup without also addressing the other issues the community is facing,” says Paulina López, the DRCC’s executive director. Like most in the group, she lives in the area.

López calls the $100,000 Impact 100 grant “the highlight of the year.” It’s all the more exciting because DRCC doesn’t take money from organizations involved in the Duwamish cleanup, including local governments, López says, instead relying on community connections and events like its November beer and chocolate festival.

Among López’s plans for the grant: hiring an operations manager to handle administrative tasks. 

Impact 100 Seattle members go beyond writing checks, using their skills and knowledge to assist the recipients with advertising, networking and on-the-ground volunteering.

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It means donors learn from community groups as well as helping them. “We evolve and grow with the organizations that we grant, and that is a very fulfilling feeling,” Shah says.

Impact 100 Seattle has meetings, inviting speakers — group members or outside experts — to talk on philanthropy but also their own areas of expertise. Many of these events are open to nonmembers.

Why women? “There’s something about the power you have in the room when you gather strong women together,” says Graves, who’s also a member of a similar group in Seattle called 100 Women Who Care.

Impact 100 Seattle’s membership has outgrown the name, which is just fine — and they’re always looking for more. Some members don’t have $1,000 to give; others sponsor them anonymously. “We want to have amazing women from all types of backgrounds and all walks of life,” Graves says.